The JED and Verlie Show, that's what Tuesdays should be called. Or, at times, The Verlie Show. I enjoy it when she makes me move quickly through phone calls, disagrees with me, tells me what the next topic should be... and brings me coffee. Tuesday is my easy day. I don't have to prepare. As the three or four of you know, I'm a closet preparer... the eighth grader who comes to a test acting as if he hasn't studied at all. Later, you find out from his little brother that he was up half the night at the kitchen table re-reading text.
or East to Detroit. That's
what the signs say... If life
were that easy.
The car was on empty, so I took a late-evening ride to the BP station at the corner of Calumet Avenue and Ridge Road in Munster. It's an unseasonably warm evening. I stuck the spigot in the tank and watched traffic roll by. I looked in the window of the Commander restaurant, where a man with a moustache dextrously rolled up the cord to a vacuum. He's an artist with an electrical cord. If only you and I could write with the precision that he stows away a Hoover.
Lost in reverie - the soft cradle of traffic, the warmth of a 70-degree day - I realized that The Commander Restaurant didn't used to be a Greek restaurant at all. It was a Yankee Doodle.
And I realized that 52 years ago I could have been standing in the exact same spot... and that there was indeed a gas station at Ridge and Calumet but it wasn't a BP. It was either a Standard or an Amoco... or a Standard then an Amoco. Its colors were blue and red. BP is green and yellow. The pumps are in the same spot as they were 52 years ago. A ton of traffic rushed through the light... an intersection that Bobby Kennedy once graced when he was running for president. He came through in a convertible and waved.
It was also at the corner of Ridge and Calumet that I first saw exactly how large the penis of a horse can be. I'm not kidding. There was a parade of some sort going through the center of Munster, which Ridge and Calumet is. Joey Chruby and I were sitting on the curb watching it. A horse-drawn carriage stopped in front of us. There was a man and a woman in the carriage. The world seemed to stop as the horse lowered its penis straight down... and down... and down... It was this baseball bat-long membrane, and all of the sudden a torrent of water sprayed from the end of it. The rush of water went on for what seemed like 10 minutes. The woman in the carriage turned beet red as we all waited for the horse to finish. It did, and the baseball bat slowly went back inside the horse. The attendant at the gas station smirked as he worked a tire off a rim. Joey Chruby pointed and laughed like hell. Unsure of what to do, I did the same.
... It was also at that gas station where I witnessed a woman pull away from the pump with the spigot still stuck in the side of her car. She pulled away and then stopped. leaving enough tension that the rubber hose pulled hard on the pump. Oodles of gas sprayed out. A mechanic came running out, yelling, but for what seemed like 10 minutes, liquid once again poured onto Ridge Road. The first one was piss, the second premium gasoline. Both had a pungent odor.
.... It was also at the corner of Ridge and Calumet that I had my first date. It was with Penny Shegich. She and I went to St. Thomas More together and lived in the same neighborhood around Eads School. I worked up the nerve to call her at 9 pm on a school night. It must have been fourth grade or so. Her mom wasn't too happy but she let Penny come to the phone anyways.
"Penny, it's Jimmy - will you go out with me?"
"When - now? I'm in my pajamas."
"No, will you go steady with me?"
"Oh, okay. Yes."
"Thanks. See you at school tomorrow. Bye."
That brief discussion led to a hamburger and a shake in the back booth at Yankee Doodle, which was located at one time precisely where the man with the moustache put away a Hoover. Penny's been dead for at least 10 years. It was a sad end. She married a guy from Valparaiso and they had a decent life going. Then cancer hit. And tragedy. And for whatever reason, for a moment while filling up the car tonight, I remembered just how lucky I felt to be on a date with Penny Shegich at Yankee Doodle at the corner of Ridge and Calumet. Joey Chruby and Chris Klyczek walked by and pointed and laughed. It was Chruby's thing to point and laugh, whether it was a horse pissing or me and Penny Shegich on our first date.
After all this, I forgot to tell you what I set out to do in the first place. After this rush of memories, I walked over to the pump - the same pump where the woman pulled away early 50 years ago - and I looked at the numbers. Guess how much?
$71.07 for about 15 gallons. How's that for a memory at the corner of Ridge Road and Calumet? My first 70-dollar tank of gas.
Alexis lays next to me listening to a podcast about Ukraine. It reminds me of a quote from a Bukowski poem. Hold on a sec. ... Here it is:
... there are piles of H- and A- bombs
enough to blow up fifty worlds and Mars
thrown in, but...
from the looks of things, relax:
the bombs will
And Bobby Kennedy will never get shot in the head, and Penny Shegich will not die tragically of cancer... and gas will never EVER cost $4.67 a gallon. Good night. I gotta go to bed. The JED and Verlie Show starts in a few hours.